Laser builds mirror by pushing beads together

Light manipulates particles to form a reflective surface

By Andrew Grant, 16:00 PM January 22, 2014

A focused beam of green light has transformed 150 plastic beads into a functional mirror. The feat is the first step toward an ambitious goal: deploying lasers in space to assemble a cloud of dustlike particles into a giant telescope mirror.

“I think it’s really cool,” says Michael Burns, a laser physicist at Harvard’s Rowland Institute. “It demonstrates something that had only been discussed before.”

Most of the fundamental physics behind the idea of building space mirrors with lasers is solid...

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